This Year, Not All Politics Are Local

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Former Speaker of the House "Tip" O'Neill once said prophetically that "all politics are local." He was right, of course, with this exception: When a national issue overtakes those local concerns, forget about it.

In 1966, the voters turned on Democrats because of Vietnam and Lyndon Johnson's intransigence. In 1974, the same voters threw Republicans out of office over Watergate and Richard Nixon's criminality. In 1994, the GOP cashed in on the arrogance of the Democratic leadership on the Hill.

In this 2006 off-year voting, the paramount issue is Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq.

Recent polls demonstrate clearly that this open-ended conflict is wearing thin the patience of voters from Vermont to California. Those same citizens are tired of hearing the president call for us to "stay the course." And they have the same disdain for hearing opponents labeled as "defeatists" or "cut and run" naysayers.

Polls also show that voters are upset with Congress, perhaps more than ever before, over the scandals in the GOP-controlled House and weak leadership in the Republican Senate. Approval rate of Congress is 16 percent.

In the past, members of Congress could rely on voters to re-elect their own members even though they regarded the institution as stagnant and even corrupt. Local pride was in play.

That may not be the case next month.

Too many early supporters of the war are drifting away from President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. In the campaign, that trio seems to be preaching to the choir in the form of GOP fundraisers, military groups, or right-wing talk shows.

Election Day looms large as a day of reckoning for the unpopular war. Losing Republicans who will be packing their bags need not look far for the reason.

It will be Bush, Bush, and Bush.